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  • War in Ukraine and Disinformation Newsletter 26 May 2022

    26 May 2022

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    YouTube as a key disinformation battlefield 

    We share our research and colleagues’ analyses that explain how misinformation operations during the Russia-Ukraine war are changing the global information environment. The newsletter is a collaboration between the Programme on Democracy and Technology and PeaceTech Lab. It is prepared by Dr Aliaksandr Herasimenka with the assistance of Danielle Recanati.


    YouTube has restricted over 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels related to the war in Ukraine that violated the platform’s content guidelines. According to The Guardian, YouTube removed or temporarily took down channels of pro-Kremlin journalists and those related to government officials. YouTube is the leading social media platform in Russia and, unlike others, has not been banned by the country’s authorities.

    Twitter increases its efforts to moderate content about the war in Ukraine, citing disinformation concerns. It will use its new “crisis misinformation policy” to add warning labels to debunked claims about the war and not emphasise such claims as soon as the platform has “evidence that a claim may be misleading.” It was not clear if this policy would be implemented algorithmically. The platform will apply the policy to both sides of the conflict.

    An inauthentic network used a popular Twitter hashtag to spread pro-war narratives on Twitter in the first days of the Ukraine war. Research conducted by BBC news showed that inauthentic Twitter profiles used the hashtag #IStandWithRussia to promote support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Nigeria. The inauthentic profiles often contained images of celebrities.

    Colleagues’ Research

    Removed RT videos found a way to Spanish-speaking YouTube users through newly created third channels. An investigation conducted by DFRLab found that while YouTube has restricted RT, a Russian state broadcaster, its content is still promoted by a network of newly created channels linked to Latin American fringe media. RT en Español was one of RT’s most popular language services across digital platforms and ranked as one of the most shared domains on Twitter featuring Spanish-language discussions about the war in Ukraine.

    Ukraine has been successful in its information operations recently not least because it “permitted the soldiers to speak.” A report published by Military Review suggests that “by empowering soldiers to rapidly distribute tactical information and shape a focused narrative that seamlessly integrates battlefield imagery, heroic exploits, and evidence of potential Russian war crimes, the Ukrainian military and its civilian leadership have mobilised the globe against Russia.” Ukraine has achieved these results by merging mobile devices, messaging services, and social media into its information strategy and “delegating distribution authority,” the report concludes.

    Research Data

    The Russia-Ukraine Monitor Map tracks verified open-source data related to the war in Ukraine. The map allows users to counter Russia’s influence operations and disinformation by tracking military movements in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus and by documenting Russian attacks on Ukrainian citizens/civilian infrastructure.

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